Surprisingly Ordinary Euro Western From The Blind Dead Director
I finally got a chance to see this Euro Western from Amando de Ossorio (THE BLIND DEAD) as a German home video release from the later 1980's called GNADENLOSE KILLER, and was very surprised to find it to be a rather pedestrian horse opera. George Martin stars as a beefy frontiersman who joins up with a rabble of hunter/prospector types operating along the US/Canadian border and running afoul of the Royal Mounties for some reason that escaped my high school textbook German. Things come to a head when they kidnap the only blond haired woman within a thousand miles as a bartering tool, who it turns out is all too happy to be removed from the clutches of the local land baron that paid good money to have a trophy wife sent up north to him.
Or something along those lines: What is interesting about seeing the film with only German audio and not understanding 90% of what is being said is that the film is reduced to it's simplest components and emerges as nothing more than competently made ready for TV B-western fare, without the kind of swaggering artsy flair usually associated with European made westerns. There are shootouts, duels, damsels in distress, a hot catfight between the film's ravishingly beautiful dark haired women, before finally settling into a bizarre cavalry fight between the Mounties and the frontiersmen, and it was here that I started to sense some of Ossorio's themes that would later emerge in his Blind Dead films.
Which was the reason I sought it out: Since Ossorio wrote the story & screenplay you'd think that early parallels to his horror movies would abound, and they do. We have the two "societies" or social organizations operating in conflict with each other, a public execution setting the stage for later conflict, a scene of fiendish torture against one of his lovely women actors, soldiers on horseback charging into battle with their sabers, a deadly female halfbreed warrior violently devoted to the white man she lusts for -- elements later seen in all of Ossorio's horror outings.
George Martin makes an appealing if somewhat ordinary he-man sort of lead, and more enjoyment is found watching the contributions of cult movie icons Franco Fantasia and Raf Baldessare as two of the frontiersmen. The costuming and equipment carried by the players is also amusingly odd: Nobody seems to be wearing any clothes more than a week old, and modern day police special pistols are used alongside of prop-ish looking firearms with little or no concern about authenticity. Characters use knives that are brand new, reflectively shiny and don't appear to be sharpened. The main point of the costuming and props seems to be to set the two societies apart: The Mounties wear funny Mountie hats, the frontiersmen wear fur hats fashioned from raccoons and leather vests.
Even more interesting is the location work, probably filming in the mountains of northern Spain as a substitute for Canada, and fans of the 1974 Peter Fonda movie OPEN SEASON will recognize the lake that much of the action is set around as being the location used for that movie's exteriors as well. The cabins & Mountie forts all look brand new, like they were built about a week before filming began, and the whole movie has a sort of phony glossy look to it that reminds me of old episodes of DAVY CROCKETT or even F-TROOP. Just with a body count around 100 dead on screen: The concluding fifteen minutes are surprisingly violent, but not in a way that seems necessary. More like he was told to add a cavalry battle with massive loss of life on both sides -- at one point he seems to run out of supporting characters to kill off, and the two lovers walk away alone rather than celebrating their victory because all their friends are dead.
Which isn't to say it's a bad movie, just not as imaginative as what Ossorio would later begin with MALENKA in 1968. He doubtlessly made this movie under a contract that included TOMB OF THE PISTOLERO from 1965, also with George Martin and Franco Fantasia. I'd love to see an English translation of the film & know exactly what is happening but don't hold out much hope. It's an incredibly obscure movie that has probably never gotten more than Cowboy Matinée showings on cable in it's English language form, if even then. But it would be right at home alongside such fare, sort of cunningly disguised as a cheapo 83 minute Western with lots of gunplay, dopey frontier romance and a musical interlude to get things going. Standard stuff, and that's just not what you'd expect from Amando de Ossorio at all, which is probably what makes it so interesting. I had no idea he was capable of making a movie that looked so ordinary.
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